Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Samoa quake tsunami threat

Fullers has cancelled all sailings from noon today until further notice due to a tsunami threat after the eartquake in Samoa.
Fullers information updates here
It is unclear why Fullers isn't using their txt message system. It's been ages since I last got a travel update via txt.

Matiatia wharf was evacuated twice with all passengers transported up the hill to Oneroa.

UPDATE FROM FULLERS: Text alerts have been sent this morning at 9.58am and 11.53am to passengers who have registered for "off peak" messages.
At this time based on advice received from Auckland Harbour Control, the Auckland Harbourmaster’s Office, and after liason with ARTA, all Fullers services are suspended until the Tsunami warning is officially lifted by these maritime agencies.
1.30pm UPDATE FROM FULLERS: Following advice given by Harbour Control and the Harbourmaster’s Office, we will now resume all services as quickly as possible.
5pm UPDATE FROM FULLERS: Following advice given by Harbour Control and the Harbourmaster’s Office, all services resumed at 1.30pm and have been operating as normal since this time.
No more updates are anticipated.

Communication from Fullers regarding the txt alert service:
To provide clarification, when customers sign up to receive text alerts they join groups which are most relevant to the times they travel. This is so that we do not over deliver irrelevant texts to uninterested parties and at times when travel notices are unwanted.
The groups are set up as follows and a customer can join up to 7 groups:
COMMUTER EARLY: First ferry to 7.30am & 3.01pm to 6.30pm (Mon-Fri only)
COMMUTER: 7am to 9am & 3.01pm to 6.30pm (Mon-Fri only)
EVENING OFF PEAK: 6.31pm to last ferry (Mon-Fri only)
INTER PEAK 9.01am to 3pm (Mon-Fri only)
More information also available here
In the instance of today’s text alerts relating to the tsunami warning and service cancellations, the text messages were sent to the INTER PEAK groups.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Disintegrating ticketing (updated 1 Oct)

Rumour has it that Fullers Ferries will end the integrated ticketing arrangement with NZ Bus and the Waiheke Bus Company at the end of October, despite assurances given at the time the company was sold to Souter Holdings in April.
Currently, Fullers monthly pass holders can use their pass on all three transport providers in all zones and at all times.
If this integration is broken up there will be winners and losers:

- current monthly pass holders, who will have to re-assess their travel arrangements, figuring out what their best option is for their particular circumstance and travel needs. Options include switching to 40-rides or workers' weekly tickets for the ferry, Go Rider cards for NZ Bus and season tickets or multi-rides on Waiheke Bus.
- Waiheke Bus Company: it will lose commuter patronage as it may be cheaper to go by car to Matiatia (or carpool or kiss & drop). Fares may have to rise to compensate for lost patronage. On the other hand, it could make arrangements with future ferry service providers as it would no longer be tied to Fullers.
- ARTA's attempts to go to a city-wide public transport integrated ticketing system. It's one further move in the "balkanisation" of public transport in Auckland where operators charge their own fares, set their own conditions, run their own timetables and decide on their service delivery.

- NZ Bus: current pass holders will now have to switch to a fare paying Go Rider ticket (one caveat is that former monthly pass holders will no longer be tied to NZ Bus and can choose other travel companies in Auckland)
- Any new entrant on the Auckland-Matiatia ferry route: the season ticket playing field would be levelled by this move by Fullers, enabling new entrants into the market (and possibly leading to lower fares overall - now there's hoping!). Commuting by car ferry to Half Moon Bay might now even become more attractive and viable too.

The effect on Fullers could be mixed: some commuters might opt for the 40-ride instead of a monthly as it gives more flexibility on travel, number of people who can use the one ticket etc., but earnings per passenger would increase for the company. Demand, of course, could drop off with people opting to re-arrange their travel needs, move off the island (especially students) or use the competition (either Sea Link or any newcomers) as Fullers has given up a powerful commuter loyalty tool.

In practical financial terms, the current $315 pass (enabling you to go unlimited from Onetangi to Henderson, Long Bay and Papakura) will, if you want to keep your current travel options, then cost:
- $315 for the ferry component (it's unclear whether the monthly pass price will be cut, but I would wager this is highly unlikely)
- $210 for a monthly all zone/all modes/all times Discovery Pass; or $110 for a Zone A ($170 for all zones) monthly NZ Bus pass (other ticket pricing here; or $105 monthly city train pass (other train fares here) for mainland transport
- $26.50 for a 4 stage 10 ride on Waiheke Bus (no season tickets available).

UPDATE 1 OCTOBER: In an interview with the Waiheke Marketplace newspaper this week, Fullers CEO Doug Hudson said that "past arrangements [when Fullers and Stagecoach were both owned by Infratil] may end should the ex-owners choose".
Does this offer Fullers a handy spin out of having to take the rap when NZ Bus "unilaterally" pulls out of the agreement?
We are still not reassured the current integrated ticketing scheme will remain in place, despite a possible link up with Howick & Eastern Bus instead (also owned by Souter Holdings). This link up would really be very useless because those buses only go to the eastern suburbs. If you had to commute there, you would save yourself a massive amount of time by going Sea Link instead.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Timetable tweaks

Fullers press release:
- The current 7.20am departure from Matiatia will depart at a new time of 7.15am, Monday to Saturday.
- The current 6.30am service departing Downtown Auckland to Matiatia will depart at a new time of 6.25am, Monday to Saturday.
- The current 5.35pm departure from Matiatia will depart at a new time of 5.40pm, Monday to Friday.
The change to the time of these services is in response to feedback from the Waiheke Ferry User Group, Waiheke customers, and also to reflect a more accurate actual departure time. It is anticipated that with the adjustment of these times, customers will be able to connect more easily to onward transport (i.e. buses and trains) upon arrival into Auckland.
Nothing earth-shatteringly different, and it's good to see timetables being adapted to real earth time rather than hypothetical Fullers time.

Nothing radical is in the works though, such as a half-hour frequency in the evening rush hour by adding a 6pm ex Auckland sailing. They have barely got the boats to the current timetable, let alone one that would really benefit commuters. We'll have to wait for Catamaran International to plug that hole in the schedule.

UPDATE: Not only the early morning ferry timetable is changing, but the bus times are too. So get yourself to the bus stop at least 5 minutes earlier.
I hope the crack communications team at Fullers will get the word out sooner rather than later. (Matiatia counter staff didn't know anything about it and had to consult the bus driver who happened to hang around) Which reminds me that I haven't had any travel updates by txt from Fullers despite the recent spate of boats running late.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ferry patronage static for past 7 years

The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) has released its Monthly Business Report [PDF] for the July 2009 year.
On Page 4 is a graph of total patronage on various transport modes over the last 7 years. Ferry patronage is static despite seasonal wave movements between 300,000 and 450,000 passengers a month.
Looking at a past 4 year period (page 8), July 2008 was the third lowest in numbers over the period, which puts the 11.8% rise in 2009 into context.
Also it seems that the introduction of the Supergold Card free travel in November 2008 has cushioned the (mostly) downward trend in passengers in 2007 and 2008, with stronger than normal seasonal figures in 2009. The Government has saved Fullers' bacon, but we are still paying higher fares.

As an aside, the ARTA report doesn't research punctuality for ferries, because Fullers is exempt from that criterion.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Too good to last

Only after a week back on the run, Superflyte's propeller hit something in the water yesterday morning so it will have to come out to be repaired, goodness knows for how long. It's not shaping up to be a good start to the tourist season for Superflyte!
As a result, the Quickcat survey has been postponed too and, oh joy, the Jet Raider is now in full throttle service (we missed you last week, so glad you're back!)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Quickcat on survey

Fullers announced that Quickcat will go on its annual survey from tomorrow, Thursday, "for 3 weeks".
I trust the Fullers definition of "week" in not the same as the "2 weeks of survey by Superflyte", which turned out to be 2 months.
In the meantime, we can again look forward to that old lady of the Gulf, Jet Raider, providing service again, like every Winter.

Not long to go now!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

NZ Bus lock-out averted

Infratil-owned NZ Bus management was planning to lock out its drivers tomorrow from 4am in an ongoing wage round dispute. But then came a late agreement today:
Both sides lifted their notices of industrial action after a mediation hearing in Auckland this afternoon during which the bus company made an amended pay offer to staff.
I had expected to walk the 5km to work from the ferry terminal tomorrow morning, but hey, it's going to be a glorious day again and hopefully without the fog which made the Superflyte take an hour to get into town this morning.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Auld Reekie

A, to my knowledge and experience, first for Fullers: a free drink for passengers, on the house!
This was on the 5.30pm sailing from town and offered to passengers for putting up with the wafts from Satan's bottom on Superflyte.
The incident making the national newspaper obviously caused some scrambling for damage control.
I'll be calling Superflyte "Auld Reekie" from now on.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Superflyte back, passengers hold nose

Yesterday Superflyte came back into service after a two month survey, which was originally planned only to last two weeks. There was obviously more wrong with her than expected, but since she is ageing a bit it's not that surprising.
Anyway, a warm welcome back, and enjoy her while you can because that other old lady in Fullers' fleet (is Quickcat Kashin to Superflyte's Burma, I wonder) is on the slip soon for heaven knows how long and then we can again endure everybody's favourite vessel Jet Raider.

Nothing much new on Superflyte apart from a scrub on the outside and a few new flash TV screens inside. They were not in service so far and some are used to promote bar products.
Everybody was welcomed back by a terrible stench on both floors, the engineers must have hooked up the aircon to the bilge. Even the staff apologised on the tannoy, so it must have been serious!
UPDATE: the sewage to cabin connection now confirmed

Passengers were also warned to be on time to buy their monthly passes since "boats will leave on time because there have been complaints about lateness in arrivals".
Nice to know that somebody in Fullers management reads this blog!